Tuesday, July 12, 2011
Americans vote based on what we care about. There are voters who care so much about a particular social issue that they're going to vote for the candidate who shares their thinking on that issue, and regardless of the positions the candidates have on the other issues.
Most voters vote based on the economy (it's the economy, stupid). But not the economy as a whole, but rather about their little piece of the economy. And in looking at their slice of the economy, they look first at how they are doing now... and then at how they think they're going to be doing in the future.
Americans don't need statistics such as the unemployment rate and level of federal debt to know how they're doing. They know if they have a job. They know if they feel safe in their homes and on the streets. They know if their company is cutting back or expanding, if they are in line for a raise or having their hours cut. They know if gas prices and food prices and taxes are going up. They know if they have enough money to pay for a vacation or to replace the family car.
Voters who are unhappy about their lives tend to vote for the challenger. Voters who are happy about their lives vote for the incumbent. And it doesn't matter whether the country as a whole is doing well, all that matters to people is how they are doing.
It is in trying to guess at what the future holds that we resort to looking at statistics of one form or another. If the unemployment rate is high - and climbing - we're not going to be as optimistic about being able to hold on to our jobs as we would be if the rate was low and/or going down. If gas and food prices are going up, we worry that this could lead to our having to do without something else we wanted to buy.
And if the statistics lead us to worry about our future, we're not going to be happy.
The exact amount of the federal deficit (and debt) doesn't matter to most voters. We're not bothered that the debt is at $XX trillion of dollars, we are worried that we're on a path that doesn't end well... for us.
So it doesn't matter what the exact amount of the deal is. What matters is whether Americans view the deal as getting us back pointed in the right direction. Not for the country's sake, but for our own.